Beyond the Binary of Universalism and Relativism

Authored by: Mehdi Semati

The Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights

Print publication date:  June  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138665545
eBook ISBN: 9781315619835
Adobe ISBN:


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Advocating human rights is a perilous activity. Human rights activists who live in ­authoritarian states pay the heaviest price for their writings and for their political and legalistic activities. For academics who live in the West and write about human rights in their native country such writing poses a different kind of challenge. On the one hand, if one writes unapologetically in defence of human rights and universal normative principles, one runs the risk of being viewed an accomplice to the forces of empire, ignoring the specificity of the local and betraying the natives. On the other, if one cautions against universal claims and advocates for an approach that attends to the agency of the local population in the face of political constraints, one runs the risk of being called an apologist for the authoritarian regimes.

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